Music Review: “Urban Cave” by Brother (2003)

[largecd-urbancave.jpg]Brother is one of my favorite bands. The following is a slightly modified version of review of their 2003 release "Urban Cave". I’ll be posting a review of their latest album "Pax Romana MMV" soon. The grading scheme is as follows.

  1. Really Bad
  2. Bad
  3. OK
  4. Good
  5. Excellent

My initial reaction to this album was "Who the hell made this crap and where’s Brother?!?" After listening to it a few times, I got used to most of it, and quite liked some bits. My overall impression are that it’s too short, too electronic, too dark, and too slow. Here’s a track-by-track breakdown:

1. Funny

The instrumental intro is really cool, but the rhymed lyrics after it strike me as amateurish. After the first verse, the song is an interesting listen and kind of catchy. I’m not sure I like the rapped bridge, though. Some days it’s OK. Other days it really annoys me. Score: 3/5

2. Fragile

I haven’t reversed the back-tracked vocal opening yet, so I don’t know what’s said. I didn’t get to hear this song many times in concert, but I’m almost positive that is was "lighter". The musical feel was darker than the lyrics seemed to warrant. It’s not a bad song, but it just seems "off" somehow. Score: 3/5

3. Death of Me

I enjoyed this track and thought it would be a good radio single (and a hell of a lot better than a lot of the crap hogging the airwaves these days). All around, this was a good track. Score: 3.5/5

4. Wear Me Down

The I really enjoyed this track except for two things. I cannot fathom the significance of "This is not an exercise" and the klaxon at the end is grating and irritating. Score: 4/5

5. River

I love this song! It’s catchy, upbeat, and well-balanced (between effects and instruments). Did anyone else think the song had a U2 feel? There are two big problems, though. "Ah there is is" doesn’t really sit well with me; why in the world is the song so short?!? Score: 4.5/5

6. Fly Away

["Fly Away" made its debut on "Your Backyard" in 1999.]

Why did they feel the need to remake this song? It wasn’t a real winner to start with. Now the lyrics have been simplified and the beat sounds like bad disco. The chorus is pretty catchy, but it’s just too simple. I just keep wondering where I’m supposed to be flying and why. Furthermore, the effects and samples were irritating. The scratch that sounds almost like a camera shutter was like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. Score: 2.5/5

7. Inside of Me

["Inside of Me" is a remake of "Bitch", which originally appeared on "i you you me" in 2001.]

Ahhhhhh!!!! They’ve killed it! They’ve killed "Bitch"!  This song is absolutely awful. The effects drove me nuts (Noticing a trend, folks?). The song has lost all "rock". I miss the ass-kickin’ guitar riffs. I miss the "urgent" feel of the original. Lastly, what the !@#$ is up with the zoo sounds near the end of the song?!? Score: 1.5/5

8. Mad But Happy

This track had real potential to be groovin’, but it just stops dead after half a minute. What’s the point in teasing us? Then again, 30 seconds of this is better than 3 minutes of "Inside of Me". Score: 2.5/5 (points lost for length)

9. Lonely With You

["Lonely With You" is a retooling of "Lonely", which originally appeared on "Your Backyard" in 1999.]

Another remake – why?  This one isn’t too bad. It’s a tolerable listen and the end kinda rocks. Again, the music doesn’t seem to match the lyrics. The original seemed desperate without being psycho. I really identified with it since at the time I was in love with a girl who didn’t love me. Most of this version has a hippy acid-trip vibe to it. Score: 3.5/5

10. In Your Name

Compared to other "angry" Brother songs, it’s not their best. I prefer "Chains" (from the 1995 album "Exit From Screechville"). On its own, though, it’s a very good track. I really liked the cello. Score: 4/5

11. Crazy

["Crazy" is a remake of a song of the same title from 2001’s "i you you me".]

This wasn’t as butchered as "Bitch", but it’s still not as good as the original. It’s not as bouncy or fun as before. I also really miss "And I don’t want that hangin’ over me" and "And when you come to think again, you’ll wonder what it all meant. And when you think again, perhaps you’ll find you’re just as bent." Ultimately, what this version lacks is the "anthem" quality that the original had. Score: 3.5/5

12. Goodbye

This solid tune’s only real flaws are the weak and seemingly out of tune vocals at the beginning and the abrupt ending. Score: 3.5/5

13. How Do You Feel?

Anybody else think the opening sounds like music from a horror video game? At this point in the album I’m about to go postal. We’ve been waiting this freakin’ long (since ) for new Brother material and we get a bunch of pathetic remakes!?! I never loved the original, but it was certainly fun to sing along with at concerts. Score: 3/5

14. Just Listen

Again I feel cheated. This song is beautiful. Why are we teased with 1:30??? Score: 3.5/5 (Imagine the score if it was full length.)

In conclusion, I’d like to mostly praise the new tunes and lament the remakes. I find myself wondering why the album is an anemic 43 minutes. I know there’s more material to release. I really wanted "Hang On" and "Give It Away". In the end, though, Brother music is like pizza – even when it’s bad it’s good.

Album score: 45.5/70 (65% D)

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About Funky Dung

Who is Funky Dung? 29-year-old grad student in Intelligent Systems (A.I.) at the University of Pittsburgh. I consider myself to be politically moderate and independent and somewhere between a traditional and neo-traditional Catholic. I was raised Lutheran, spent a number of years as an agnostic, and joined the Catholic Church at the 2000 Easter Vigil. Why Funky Dung? I haven't been asked this question nearly as many times as you or I might expect. Funky Dung is a reference to an obscure Pink Floyd song. On the album Atom Heart Mother, there is a track called Atom Heart Mother Suite. It's broken up into movements, like a symphony, and one of the movements is called Funky Dung. I picked that nickname a long time ago (while I was still in high school I think), shortly after getting an internet connection for the first time. To me it means "cool/neat/groovy/spiffy stuff/crap/shiznit", as in "That's some cool stuff, dude!" Whence Ales Rarus? I used to enjoy making people guess what this means, but I've decided to relent and make it known to all. Ales Rarus is a Latin play on words. "Avis rarus" means "a rare bird" and carries similar meaning to "an odd fellow". "Ales" is another Latin word for bird that carries connotations of omens, signs of the times, and/or augery. If you want to get technical, both "avis" and "ales" are feminine (requiring "rara", but they can be made masculine in poetry (which tends to breaks lots of rules). I decided I'd rather have a masculine name in Latin. ;) Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what? :-P Wherefore blog? It is my intention to "teach in order to lead others to faith" by being always "on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful" through the "use of the communications media". I also act knowing that I "have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors [my] opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and [I] have a right to make [my] opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward [my and their] pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." (adapted from CCC 904-907) Statement of Faith I have been baptized and confirmed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I, therefore, renounce Satan; I renounce all his works; I renounce all his allurements. I hold and profess all that is contained in the Apostles' Creed, the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Having been buried with Christ unto death and raised up with him unto a new life, I promise to live no longer for myself or for that world which is the enemy of God but for him who died for me and rose again, serving God, my heavenly Father, faithfully and unto death in the holy Catholic Church. I am obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That is, I promote and defend authentic Catholic Teaching and Faith in union with Christ and His Church and in union with the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter. Thanks be unto Thee, O my God, for all Thy infinite goodness, and, especially, for the love Thou hast shown unto me at my Confirmation. I Give Thee thanks that Thou didst then send down Thy Holy Spirit unto my soul with all His gifts and graces. May He take full possession of me for ever. May His divine unction cause my face to shine. May His heavenly wisdom reign in my heart. May His understanding enlighten my darkness. May His counsel guide me. May His knowledge instruct me. May His piety make me fervent. May His divine fear keep me from all evil. Drive from my soul, O Lord, all that may defile it. Give me grace to be Thy faithful soldier, that having fought the good fight of faith, I may be brought to the crown of everlasting life, through the merits of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Behind the Curtain: an Interview With Funky Dung (Thursday, March 03, 2005) I try to avoid most memes that make their way 'round the blogosphere (We really do need a better name, don't we?), but some are worth participating in. Take for instance the "interview game" that's the talk o' the 'sphere. I think it's a great way to get to know the people in neighborhood. Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhod? In your neigh-bor-hoo-ood...*smack* Sorry, Sesame Street flashback. Anyhow, I saw Jeff "Curt Jester" Miller's answers and figured since he's a regular reader of mine he'd be a good interviewer. Without further ado, here are my answers to his questions. 1. Being that your pseudonym Funky Dung was chosen from a Pink Floyd track on Atom Heart Mother, what is you favorite Pink Floyd song and why? Wow. That's a tuffy. It's hard to pick out a single favorite. Pink Floyd isn't really a band known for singles. They mostly did album rock and my appreciation of them is mostly of a gestalt nature. If I had to pick one, though, it'd be "Comfortably Numb". I get chills up my spine every time I hear it and if it's been long enough since the last time, I get midty-eyed. I really don't know why. That's a rather unsatisfying answer for an interview, so here are the lyrics to a Rush song. It's not their best piece of music, but the lyrics describe me pretty well.

New World Man He's a rebel and a runner He's a signal turning green He's a restless young romantic Wants to run the big machine He's got a problem with his poisons But you know he'll find a cure He's cleaning up his systems To keep his nature pure Learning to match the beat of the old world man Learning to catch the heat of the third world man He's got to make his own mistakes And learn to mend the mess he makes He's old enough to know what's right But young enough not to choose it He's noble enough to win the world But weak enough to lose it --- He's a new world man... He's a radio receiver Tuned to factories and farms He's a writer and arranger And a young boy bearing arms He's got a problem with his power With weapons on patrol He's got to walk a fine line And keep his self-control Trying to save the day for the old world man Trying to pave the way for the third world man He's not concerned with yesterday He knows constant change is here today He's noble enough to know what's right But weak enough not to choose it He's wise enough to win the world But fool enough to lose it --- He's a new world man...
2. What do you consider your most important turning point from agnosticism to the Catholic Church. At some point in '99, I started attending RCIA at the Pittsburgh Oratory. I mostly went to ask a lot of obnoxious Protestant questions. Or at least that's what I told myself. I think deep down I wanted desperately to have faith again. At that point I think I'd decided that if any variety of Christianity had the Truth, the Catholic Church did. Protestantism's wholesale rejection of 1500 years of tradition didn't sit well with me, even as a former Lutheran. During class one week, Sister Bernadette Young (who runs the program) passed out thin booklet called "Handbook for Today's Catholic". One paragraph in that book spoke to me and I nearly cried as I read it.
"A person who is seeking deeper insight into reality may sometimes have doubts, even about God himself. Such doubts do not necessarily indicate lack of faith. They may be just the opposite - a sign of growing faith. Faith is alive and dynamic. It seeks, through grace, to penetrate into the very mystery of God. If a particular doctrine of faith no longer 'makes sense' to a person, the person should go right on seeking. To know what a doctrine says is one thing. To gain insight into its meaning through the gift of understanding is something else. When in doubt, 'Seek and you will find.' The person who seeks y reading, discussing, thinking, or praying eventually sees the light. The person who talks to God even when God is 'not there' is alive with faith."
At the end of class I told Sr. Bernadette that I wanted to enter the Church at the next Easter vigil. 3. If you were a tree what kind of, oh sorry about that .. what is the PODest thing you have ever done? I set up WikiIndex, a clearinghouse for reviews of theological books, good, bad, and ugly. It has a long way to go, but it'll be cool when it's finished. :) 4. What is your favorite quote from Venerable John Henry Newman? "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." 5. If you could ban one hymn from existence, what would it be? That's a tough one. As a member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, there are obviously a lot of songs that grate on my nerves. If I had to pick one, though, I'd probably pick "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" by Ernie Sands.

10 thoughts on “Music Review: “Urban Cave” by Brother (2003)

  1. Funky Dung

    If you’d read the posts you were supposed to read, you’d know. 😉 It’s a phrase I borrowed from another blogger. Had I coined it, I might have called it “charitable interpretation”. The idea is that you give you fellow commenters/bloggers the benefit of the doubt that they didn’t intend to come off and blithering idiot or a complete ass.

  2. howard

    I can’t be bothered to read all that! Besides the fact that I’ve probably read them and forgotten several times over by now, so… wait, did you just call me a blithering idiot?

  3. Pingback: Ales Rarus - A Rare Bird, A Strange Duck, One Funky Blog » Music Review: “Pax Romana MMV” by Brother (2005)

  4. Pingback: Ales Rarus - A Rare Bird, A Strange Duck, One Funky Blog » Music Review: “As You Were” by Brother (2006)

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